“Local empowerment” refers to the process of enabling people and communities to take control of the things that influence their lives.
At Our Kids Foundation we see our role as a catalyst. We don’t just donate money, equipment and time. We hand control of our projects to local employees and volunteers. Donations are resources which speed up the process but they are not an end in themselves. The goal is to enable local communities to build the infrastructure and capacity they need. And to ensure that they are able to make decisions about how best to use resources to achieve their own goals.
Local empowerment is more than participation. It implies local ownership, and this is the key to long term improvement. Getting projects up and running can be extremely difficult when a country lacks existing infrastructure and opportunity. So external help in the form of money, expertise and “hands-on-deck” is very useful. But to ensure that in the long term a project meets the needs of the local community, the community itself needs to own it.
Finance is often a key issue. Another element in local empowerment is enabling the community to incorporate financially self-sustaining activities into their projects. This is not always possible. But when it can be achieved, it can dramatically improve a project’s independence.
This is why we aim, wherever possible to set up projects that have their own local governing Board and that are run by local employees and volunteers. The Foundation maintains an advisory role, and continues to work with partners to provide expertise, time and funds while the projects fully establish themselves. But we try not to retain decision making powers longer than is necessary.
It is this strategic approach that achieves long term sustainable improvements for the children and young people, as well as contributing to the wider post-war recovery process of Bosnia and Herzegovina.